#winePW 6 Shepherds Pie Casserole with Barnard Griffin Syrah Port

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A soul satisfying casserole perfect for Thanksgiving potlucks and family dinners paired with a not too sweet dessert wine. Yum!

This is the 6th Wine Pairing Weekend #winePW - Events are held on the second Saturday of the month at 8 am Pacific. Do you enjoy the interplay of good food and wine? Do you relish the challenge of finding a great wine pairing for your weekend meals? Then join us for the real pleasure of wine when it accompanies food. If you have similar inclinations, you are invited to join us. Another goal for Wine Pairing Weekend is to serve as a resource for people searching the web for wine pairing ideas.

The theme for this month is about the details of Thanksgiving dinner. The holiday that I love. Our goal, find a wine that makes our favorite part of the meal shine. Is it the deep herbal notes in the stuffing, or the buttery, garlic mashed potatoes? The brown-sugar sweet potato casserole, or the bright and tart cranberry sauce? Maybe even the big slice of pumpkin pie that finishes everything off? 

My choice was a hot, filling, satisfying dish with elements of the holiday season. While it would be easy to select a standard wine pairing for this dinner, I went with something not traditional for American palates. I went with a Shepherds Pie and a Washington Syrah Port.

More of a traditional British dish, you can find variations on the Shepherds Pie from Ireland, Scotland and England. In early cooking books, it was a means of using leftover roasted meat, the dish was lined with mashed potato as well as a potato crust. My rendition is easy to make and very satisfying.

While Port wine is a traditional UK pairing with dinner, it is not in America. In America, Port is traditionally served after dinner as dessert or with a dessert or outside with a cigar. But not with the main course.

The wine I chose is made by renowned winemaker Rob Griffin of Barnard Griffin Winery. Rob has made wine in Washington longer than any other Washington winemaker. He's been making Washington wine since 1977. I've been enjoying his Syrah Port for many years and felt it would be a fun and tasty pairing with this savory pie. It was. Fortified with distilled spirits, which stops the fermentation process, this Syrah Port is therefore higher in alcohol than regular still wines. It is also sweet.

*Note: The Barnard Griffin Syrah Port is not from Portugal. It is a favorite local Washington wine. It is allowed to be labeled as "Port" because it was grandfathered in before changes in labeling laws.

**Note: Of all the wines most closely associated with Portugal, and most reflective of the immense influence that the British have had on the Portuguese wine industry, it is Port. So close is the relationship that wine writer Karen MacNeil notes "If Portugal is the mother of Port, Britain is certainly its father".

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The 2013 Barnard Griffin Syrah Port was a good companion. Decidedly masculine, the sweetness did not overwhelm, it matched the savoriness of the pie and added depth with aromas and flavors of lilacs, dark chocolate, blueberry, blackberry, tar and tarragon. After a few days it was fuller in the mouth, viloets and green tea added to the profile.Wow. ABV 19.5%, SRP: $17, www.barnardgriffin.com

*Note: I've learned that this Syrah Port drinks bigger and tastier if you open it and then drink it the next day or over the next few weeks. At first opening the wine is good, just lighter than it will be. If you and your guests prefer a lighter-bodied port style wine, then open and drink with this meal. If you would like a bigger and more expressive experience, then open the bottle, re-cork it and then drink it the next day or later. Once the bottle is opened, it should last a solid month with cork in bottle.

Your guests will find comfort and warmth in this pairing. They may be surprised with how well they enjoy the Barnard Griffin Syrah Port. Myself, I was looking for another glass faster than expected. If you have company, you may want to have an extra bottle handy.

This Shepherds Pie was delicious. I used extra lean hamburger to avoid greasy heaviness, the carrots were firm, not soft or crunchy, the celery added nice texture and flavor, also not too soft or crunchy but with a good bite. The mashed potatoes were creamy and buttery with a light flavor of cheddar cheese tying it together. We enjoyed for dinner, yes we had seconds, we had leftovers for lunch and then had it again for dinner. This is a large family-size portion. You could make it in several smaller dishes and then freeze half of it for later.

*Note: I took a couple of shortcuts with this recipe, so anyone should be able to make it as described. With numerous possible modifications, this is a recipe you can make your own.

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Recipe Shepherds Pie/Casserole
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add a handful of sliced mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are brown, about 8 minutes. I also added sliced onion and carrots and sauteed with the mushrooms after 5 minutes. The carrots should be firm.
  • Add 2 cloves of diced garlic and saute for 1 minute with the mushrooms and vegetables.
  • Add 1 tsp French Thyme and handful of sliced celery to the vegetables, stir well. Using a slotted spoon, transfer vegetable mixture to a bowl.
  • Add 2 Lbs extra lean ground beef to the same skillet. Sauté over medium-high heat until hamburger is no longer pink. Drain the greasy liquid from the meat.
*Note: You could use ground lamb or ground turkey instead of beef. Or you could use lamb shoulder, chopped in bit-size pieces. Traditionally leftover roast beef was also used to make this dish. There is a strong association of "Shepherds Pie" with lamb not beef. I modified this recipe which originally used ground lamb. Technically, this is a "Cottage Pie."

**Note: The name "cottage pie" was first used at the end of the 18th century. It was around that time that the poorer people of Great Britain, people who lived in cottages in the country, started using potatoes as an everyday food. Originally, a pie made with any kind of meat and mashed potato was called a "cottage pie".

***Note: I had to move to a Wok when I cooked the ground beef. I ran out of room in the skillet I was using. The Wok gave enough room to work with the meat and vegetables. 
  • Return the vegetable mixture to skillet/wok. Mix in one packet of brown gravy seasoning and ¾ cup red wine + ¾ cup chicken stock. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, about 11 minutes.
*Note: One of the shortcuts with this recipe is the use of one packet of Brown Gravy mix. It adds flavor and thickens the liquid. You could use flour or corn starch as a thickener instead. You could also add curry powder for some added flavor. Another option would be to replace the chicken stock with beef stock.
  • Add 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce and ¼ cup ketchup. Stir. Add ½ tbsp brown sugar and stir. Taste.
  • Add 1 can of peas (drained no water) stir and simmer until just tender, about 5 minutes longer.
*Note: You could use frozen peas if you have them or frozen corn.
  • Season with freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.
  • Mixture should be moist with some juice, but not soupy. Reduce liquid to proper consistency if too watery, think sauce.
  • Transfer meat mixture to a13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.
*Note: This recipe makes a lot. It will fill a casserole dish. If you wish, you could use several oven safe ramekins or pie dishes. Which is what I intend to do next time.
  • Mashed Potatoes to cover: I was out of potatoes and I did not have the time to peel and mash a large batch of potatoes even if I had them. Yes, I used instant mashed potatoes. Don't judge, they were delicious and easy to make. I tweaked the instant mashed potatoes with a lot of heavy cream and extra butter. My first go I did not make enough potatoes, so I doubled the recipe. The casserole dish needed a lot of potatoes to cover properly. I had to make 8 servings of mashed potatoes to cover the casserole.
* Note: If you have a bakers pipe, you could get fancy and decorate this Shepherds Pie with some fancy piping of the mashed potatoes. I may do that next time with small ramekin dishes.

**Note: To change things up for a more traditional Thanksgiving experience, use mashed Sweet Potato to cover this pie/casserole. I told you, this is a recipe you can make your own.
  • Spoon Buttery Mashed Potatoes over the meat mixture in the casserole, cover completely, then gently sprinkle ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese on top. Just for color and a hint of flavor.
  • Place casserole in pre-heated oven on a cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F until heated through, about 25 minutes.
  • Finish by placing under broiler 2-3 minutes to gently brown the top.
  • Garnish with parsley and enjoy.

Baked Shepherds Pie Casserole.

Dinner was wonderful! Of course I ate too much, but so worth it. The combination of savory meat, vegetables and buttery potatoes made for a wonderful contrast with the sweet delicious Port style wine. Such a comforting meal for the cool, blustery weather we enjoy during the Thanksgiving holiday season. And there is plenty to serve to a large hungry crowd.

This was a decidedly delicious pairing. If you have any Barnard Griffin Syrah Port left over, it can be enjoyed after dinner with a good cigar. If  so inclined. Enjoy.

More Creative Thanksgiving-Inspired Dishes and Wine Pairings
From our group to you.


Mains
Turkey, Tempranillo and Sweet Potatoes by Cooking Chat
Thanksgiving from the Veneto: Turkey, Pomegranate Sauce & Valpolicella by foodwineclick
Norwegian Meatballs by Confessions of a Culinary Diva
Shepherds Pie Casserole with Barnard Griffin Syrah Port by Wild 4 Washington Wine
Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding and Donkey & Goat Stone Crusher by ENOFYLZ Wine Blog


Sides
Purple Sweet Potato Soup with Roasted Lobster + Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Arugula Pear Salad paired with Torrontes from Argentina by A Day in the Life on the Farm
Layered Sweet Potato and Apple Bake with Cranberry Blush by Curious Cuisiniere


Desserts
Walnut Tart with Sparkling Brachetto d’Acqui by Vino Travels — An Italian Wine Blog
Can we skip to dessert? by Pull That Cork


Don’t Forget Leftovers!
Day After Turkey and Seafood Gumbo by It’s Ok To Eat The Cupcake
Turkey Pot Pie and Boedecker Cellars Chardonnay by Tasting Pour


You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later!

And, be sure to mark your calendars for December’s Wine Pairing Weekend, hosted by Jeff of foodwineclick. Just in time for Holiday parties, we’ll be sharing sparkling wine and hors d’oeuvre pairings. Join in the #WinePW 7 conversation on Saturday Dec. 13!

Cheers!

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